Tuesday, 12 October 2010

France: an Infantile Disorder?

They are striking again in France. They have been doing it ever since the August holidays ended. They always do. This time they say it is in opposition to legislation raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. France has the same problem as other European countries: funding the cost of state benefits for people who insist on living a lot, lot longer and against whom, so far, no virus (bird flu, swine flu, HIV) has proved remotely effective.

To an outsider, the strikes seem infantile. These are people who are not listening, not thinking and who are stuck in a groove of self-destructive action.

But there must be more to it than that. Every time I visit France, I am struck by how highly regulated life is by a highly centralised state apparatus. Personal freedom is quite limited. Commercial freedom even more so. People seem agitated and quick to anger. There is something wrong with the way of life.

All the restaurants open and shut at the same times and so do all the shops and banks. Every business displays reams of official paper granting it permission to do whatever it does but not anything else. People are fearful.

Everything shuts in August, including the hospitals - and so when, a few years ago, there was an extreme August heatwave, it was able to do a good job killing off elderly citizens in the cities simply because there were no doctors available to treat them.

Life in France is suffocating. No liberty, not much equality and certainly no fraternity. Strikes in France are not a left-wing disorder. They are symptoms of deep seated frustration with a centralised, authoritarian state and way of life. Unfortunastely, those going on strike think that the solution is more state power.

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